UN opens its arms to press with first media guidelines

NEW YORK: For the first time, the United Nations is preparing to give members of the media unfettered access to its staff.

NEW YORK: For the first time, the United Nations is preparing to give members of the media unfettered access to its staff.

NEW YORK: For the first time, the United Nations is preparing to

give members of the media unfettered access to its staff.



The UN, one of the largest public organizations in the world and long a

bureaucratic black hole for journalists, revealed its first-ever written

media guidelines last week. These so-called ’ground rules’ even go so

far as to suggest that most talks should be on the record. For more

sensitive discussions, the difference between ’not for attribution’ and

’deep background’ is delineated.



The UN’s newfound media-friendliness is an attempt to give journalists

quick and honest responses and, according to one source, to help improve

the largely negative coverage of the body in the US.



’Most bureaucrats think there is not much to be gained and a whole lot

to lose from talking with journalists,’ said Fred Eckhard, spokesman for

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. ’We are trying to make this a more

friendly place for the press. We want to open this place up to

breathe.’



The ground rules also attempt to address poor internal communications

and means by which the organization can ease the flow of information

throughout the organization. ’Senior officials should share information

with those under their supervision and should keep each other informed

of their media activities,’ the guidelines read.



While the majority of press calls are handled by the public information

department (headed by communications director Shashi Tharoor), this

group has often been criticized for being unable to answer complicated

questions. To combat this, the guidelines stipulate that ’officials in

each department should be designated to speak about sensitive

issues.’



The UN has also been slow to replace PR openings in other

departments.



Eckhard’s previous position, spokesperson for peacekeeping efforts, has

been vacant for two and a half years.



While the UN has not worked extensively with any PR agency, David Finn,

chairman and chief executive of Ruder Finn (and, according to reports,

an Annan confidant), advises the UN on a pro bono basis. He was involved

in a decision last week not to respond to attacks on the Secretary

General in a Talk magazine article by former UN Special Commission chief

Richard Butler. Finn interviewed Annan last year for RF’s ’The Value of

Values’ series of presentations.



Also working on the UN’s behalf is the Ted Turner-backed Better World

Fund, which has organized press briefings about the UN’s charitable

missions.



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